'The Thomas John Experience': Susan Gerbic's sting operation exposed John's use of social media in readings
CBS All Access series 'The Thomas John Experience' stars celebrity psychic medium Thomas John, who travels across the country meeting strangers and connecting them with their deceased loved ones on the other side with his ability. Thomas John has been a subject of conversation for years, since major media outlets like Vogue magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and SF Weekly have promoted him. However, in 2019, 'Last Week Tonight' host John Oliver condemned media publications for sensationalizing John as a real psychic, when in truth, by promoting him, they were also enabling psychics to prey on grieving families.
Psychic mediums are known to use their extrasensory sensory perception as a tool for mediumship between the spirits of the dead and living persons. They particularly claim to use telepathy and clairvoyance to do so and are often part of paranormal investigations that require them to do psychic sweeps around a haunted location. But because of the supernatural nature of their work, they're often criticized because more often than not people tend to not believe in such things.
Thomas John is a self-proclaimed psychic medium, and formerly, the Chicago drag queen 'Lady Vera Parker.' Also called the 'Manhattan Medium', he has previously headlined the 2018 Lifetime reality TV show, 'Seatbelt Psychic' which is pretty similar to his upcoming one. He drove unsuspecting passengers around, under the guise of a rideshare driver and delivered messages from their deceased loved ones. He has also worked with various celebrity clients, including Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Nicks, Goldie Hawn and Courtney Cox. John revealed in an interview with the New York Post that he only became comfortable with his ability when he moved to Chicago and lived there in his 20s. He first saw the ghost of his grandfather at age four, but when he told his family they didn't know what to make of it.
He became the subject of public scrutiny, when Susan Gerbic, a skeptical activist carried out a sting 'Operation Pizza Roll' in 2017 and exposed him as being a fraudulent psychic in an article for Skeptical Insider. Gerbic and mentalist Mark Edward posed as a married couple and attended one of John's live shows where he often summons the deceased. They used aliases and John 'read' them as a married couple, Susanna and Mark Wilson. During the course of the reading, John failed to identify them by their real names and the fact that Gerbic and Edward were being deceptive. All of the personal details that he revealed to them during the reading matched the falsified information that the two had put up on their fake Facebook accounts, but John pretended he was getting all the information from Gerbic and Edward's supposedly dead relatives. He wasn't able to point out any facts from their actual lives.
The sting operation led to other investigations in which Gerbic claimed that the passengers in 'Seatbelt Psychic' were actually hired actors, several who are even documented on IMDb. However, Gerbic said these riders were likely hired actors, but may not have been acting when talking with him. Yet again, he used their social media to collect details about the riders for his reading. Later, Gerbic also revealed in another article that he searched up obituaries on Google and used a website called intellus.com, a 'confidential way to find people' and included screenshots of his browsing history.
John has denied performing online research on his sitters, despite Gerbic's allegations that he uses his Facebook account to find out who is attending his show so he can look them up. "I’ve actually been scientifically tested by Gary Schwartz, a PhD-level psychologist who studies afterlife communication,” John said to the New York Post. “What he’s found is that there is a certain subset of the population who can connect with the non-physical elements of somebody who has died. He was fascinated with my work. I tend to go more with that [opinion] than with somebody who is a naysayer.”
'The Thomas John Experience' premieres on June 4 and is available to stream on CBS All Access.